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L’Shana Tova to Our Community

The new school year at Bialik is off to a great start, as we celebrate the wonderful new facilities at both our Viewmount and Himel Branches and classes filled with more than 1,200 students busy learning and growing. We’ve also had almost a full month of continuous learning, as this year, Rosh HaShana only begins at the end of  September.

The interaction between our Hebrew and secular calendars is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about this year. With the Hebrew calendar being lunar, it needs periodic adjustment to keep in sync with the secular, solar calendar. In fact, extra Adar “leap months” are added in seven out of every 19 years and this results in the dates of the Jewish holidays migrating in relation to the secular calendar. This year, Rosh HaShana is “late,” giving us the month of September with virtually no holidays. 

Certainly, this uninterrupted month of September has allowed us to establish all our school routines more easily. But we have also been able to focus on the High Holidays and Sukkot in a more fulsome way. Teachers have had time to introduce the customs and themes associated with the new year, from apples and honey for our youngest children, to the cyclical patterns of nature and synagogue liturgy for our older students. And Bialik, as a community, has learned about the importance of inclusivity and opportunities for those with differing abilities, as our students have been making New Year’s greetings cards to raise money and awareness for the Krembo Wings youth program in Israel.  

The relationship between the Hebrew and secular calendars is also of relevance for the wider GTA Jewish community. Federal elections this year are scheduled for October 21, falling on the holiday of Shmini Atzeret. This may not pose a problem for many of our Bialik families, and for those who do observe the holiday, there are plenty of options for early voting.  But no matter one’s level of observance, the fact that the election and Chag dates overlap points out the occasional complexity of merging our identities as Jews and as Canadians.  

It occurs to me that it is exactly for this challenge that we are preparing our students. Bialik strives to strengthen both Jewish and Canadian identities in our students, making them strong enough to last a lifetime. While it is our hope that being Jewish and Canadian will always be an easy fit, we are preparing our students for the inevitable moments when reconciling both identities requires more awareness or a conscious effort.  

If the calendar pushes us to think a bit more about the different components of our Jewish and Canadian identities, it also helps to emphasize what a privilege it is to be Jewish Canadians. How lucky we are to live in a country free from much of the suffering we see around the globe, and at a time when our lives as Jews feel largely free and uninhibited. 

May 5780 bring only more good things to our community, and health and prosperity to each of you and your families.  

Shana Tova!

Benjy Cohen
Head of School